I was last at Belmont on July 18th and 19th, and on those days, the backyard didn’t look too much different from Saratoga: groups of friends with coolers of beer; families with kids hanging out by the playground; a crowded apron of punters lustily cheering home their horses. The place was alive, even if the grandstand was largely empty.
Saturday, I could have shot a cannon through the backyard without grazing a soul; though a few hearty souls defied the (largely overwrought and inaccurate) dire forecast of Hurricane Hanna’s approach, the tables and benches were empty, and the oppressive humidity and greyness accentuated the general bleakness of the afternoon. For some reason, today’s attendance is “unavailable.” Hm.
A little freaked out myself by the reports of wind and rain in the afternoon, I didn’t figure to spend the whole day out there (braving the Long Island and Brooklyn-Queens Expressways in a torrential downpour was a little more than I could imagine taking on), but I did make it for the Grade I Garden City, a decent betting race with a number of fillies for whom one could make a case. NYRA had placed this turf race early in the card in the hope that they’d get it in before the rain began; they accelerated post times as well, so while scheduled to go off shortly after 2:00, in fact the race went off at 1:52. The Ruffian, scheduled for 5:15, went off at 4:30.
Backseat Rhythm is now four for six on turf, and there were murmurs in the clubhouse following the race of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf—oops, maybe that’s the Ladies’ Turf?
I hung around until the rain started shortly after the fifth race; I knew that if I left then, I’d get home in time to catch the Ruffian on television, and watching the fillies and mares slop around on the track, I didn’t regret that I was watching it from my living room. Though several of the entrants had shown an affinity for wet going, Tough Tiz’s Sis wasn’t one of them, but she seemed to relish sloshing around in the mud yesterday afternoon, winning decisively by more than twelve lengths. Yes, twelve.
Skimming the program and listening to the races, I was a little perturbed by the entrant in the last race named Head Heart Hoof; his breeding (Intidab – Trustees Gray) didn’t provide any clues to the origin of the name, and while I’m not generally a squeamish or sentimental type, listening to the name on the day of the Ruffian, with her grave bright in the infield, just felt a little creepy. And John Imbriale didn’t make it any better when, as the colt hit the wire five and a half lengths in front, he noted that “Head Heart Hoof buried them today…”
On a brighter note…the t-shirt was totally worth the trip…